Kelly Gerson and Jeffrey Royal
March 2, 2019, in Philadelphia
They met thanks to a mutual friend but have no idea who it was.
Dating app Hinge, which before a revamp used to connect people based on shared social media acquaintances, introduced Kelly and Jeff — suggesting that their shared social media connection might mean they would like each other, too. After a week of great app-based conversation that felt like forever to Kelly, she asked Jeff out IRL.
Neither knew anything about many of the beers on Kyber Pass’ extensive list. “We literally spun the menu around and dropped a finger with eyes closed. Where you landed, you had to drink,” Jeff said. “We made a game of it and had so much fun.”
Between beers and laughter, “we had an easy time talking to one another.” Kelly said. “He was very cute and very charming.”
Their bond grew so quickly that both deleted Hinge within days, later realizing they never identified the mutual friend that led the app to introduce them in the first place.
Jeff, who is now 32 and a vice president at asset management distribution firm iM Global Partner, grew up in Havertown. He lived in Fairmount when they met, but when his lease expired a few months later, he and his dachshund mix, Steve, moved in with Kelly and her terrier mix, Wrennie, in Old City.
“She didn’t have a television in her apartment,” Jeff says with admiration. “She was more into experiencing things, being present, living life.” Exploring with Kelly remains his favorite thing to do. “I’ve been to more places and done more things with her than in the 27 years before I knew her,” he said. “She opened up a different part of me.”
Kelly, who is now 31, grew up in Madison, Conn. She moved to Philadelphia in 2013 and is now a partner at Luntz Global Partners, a strategic communications firm in Washington.
A year after they met, the couple bought a home in Fairmount together. “We didn’t waste any time,” Kelly laughs. “We just felt so comfortable in each other’s presence — it was really like meeting somebody you had known for a long time and just picking up where you had left off,” she said. “There was ease, comfort, and enjoyment from the very start.”
The realization that Kelly’s closest friends and family would be in town for her birthday in February 2018 sent Jeff into a whirlwind of a week: He asked her father for his blessing. He bought a ring. He filled everyone but the guest of honor in on his plan.
On the night of the birthday gathering, the couple and four friends went to dinner at Jaxson in Northern Liberties. They ordered. Jeff looked at Kelly’s friend Jill and chugged a glass of red wine for courage. “Here goes nothing,” he said as Jill laughed.
Jeff stood and raised another glass to Kelly. As he spoke of her charms, she heckled him — graciously accepting compliments is not among her strengths. Then Jeff knelt.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
Kelly said yes, and everyone in the restaurant cheered.
Then the newly engaged couple and their friends headed to Heritage in Northern Liberties, where her parents, Nancy and Thomas, his mom, Peggy, and other family members and friends were gathered to celebrate with them.
The couple married and celebrated at Front & Palmer, a former pickle barrel factory. “The first time we walked in, it felt like a jazz club you didn’t want to leave, and we liked that idea,” said Kelly.
Friend of the couple Sammy is so full of spirit and joy they weren’t the first pair to ask him to officiate; he’d already been ordained online. During the ceremony, Sammy told the couple’s story and spoke of them as individuals and as a team. Jeff’s Uncle Mark and Kelly’s brother, Tim, did readings, and her godparents, Maureen and Jim, said a blessing. “It wasn’t a religious ceremony, but we did want to invite God in,” she said.
Kelly and Jeff wrote their vows together. Among their promises: To create and sustain a marriage that doesn’t just make them better people, but that radiates their love and support for each other to those around them. After Sammy read each of the vows, the couple responded in unison, “We do.”
Then it was time to party.
“We built the reception around the food and the band, because that’s really the only two things people care about,” said Jeff.
They had gone to New York to hear 45 Riots play for a small crowd at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village on a weeknight. “A couple of songs in, they had 10 complete strangers dancing together and having a good time,” said Jeff. “If they could do that, they could get 160 or so of our close friends and family to do the same thing.” From Cardi B to modern rap, classic hits to Motown, they covered it all.
When the couple visited their venue for the first time, they caught a whiff of something delicious and learned Feast Your Eyes catering is housed in the same building. The caterer nailed the couple’s concept of delicious-yet-not-too-serious foods and beverages: Dim sum with dumplings and noodles. Cheesesteak eggrolls. A tiny pig in a blanket with a shot-glass-size mug of beer. Little grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shooters. And the “Wrennie Wishes She Were Here” champagne mojito and the “Steve Sends His Regards” spicy margarita.
The couple saw each other for the first time in their wedding finery at Lokal Hotel in Old City, where they and their wedding party sipped champagne and had photos taken by Peach Plum Pear Photo owner Inna Spivakova. “It was a bit surreal,” Jeff said. “I knew for a long time that Kelly and I were going to get married, but now we were all dressed up, and the day was finally here. And it wasn’t a whirlwind yet, so we got to soak it in and appreciate being with each other and our friends.”
Right after the ceremony and before the cocktail hour, Kelly and Jeff had 10 minutes all to themselves. “It was just the two of us in a day where we were otherwise surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones, and to me, that’s where everything sank in,” Kelly said. “I remember being so overwhelmed, and so happy, and I’ll remember that forever.”
A bargain: Jeff’s mom’s best friend, Hugh McHugh, is a florist. The couple didn’t know exactly what they wanted but favored simple and clean greens with white flowers. From that, Hugh, who owns Overhill Flowers, crafted a complete vision. “He exceeded our expectations on every front, and he handled everything,” said Jeff. “It was an incredible value.”
The splurge: The band.
Two weeks on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, hiking in the rain forest and on volcanoes, learning to surf, and taking ATVs to otherwise inaccessible beaches for near-private lounging.
Officiant: Samuel Edandison, friend of the couple, ordained through the Universal Life Church.
Venue: Front & Palmer, Philadelphia.
Food: Feast Your Eyes Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: 45 Riots, New York.
Photography: Inna Spivakova, Peach Plum Pear Photo.
Flowers: Hugh McHugh of Overhill Flowers, Philadelphia.
Dress: The White Dress by the Shore, Clinton, Conn.
Hair/Makeup: Aleksandra Ambrozy Makeup & Hair, Philadelphia.